In which our intrepid hero discovers the Island of Misfit Motels…
Once past Zanesville, continuing eastward on U.S. 40, I immediately began coming across old motels again, relics of the beautiful nostalgic time between the 1920s, when travelling by car became common in America, and the 1950s, when the Interstate Highway System began to suck up all of the nation’s cross-country traffic, leaving the old motor hotels as dry as a farm after the river shifted course.
[Remember that you can click on the photographs below to see larger, better versions]
The Baker’s Motel, in tiny Norwich, Ohio (population 102, salute!) is one of the few operating old motels along U.S. 40 that look pretty decent. It even has its own website, which informs us that the motel was built in 1937. The fact that it is close to Muskingum University may be what has enabled it to survive pretty well.
Not looking so great is the Siesta Motel (just look at the wreck on the left, at the end of the building). However, I suppose one would not expect an ostensibly haunted motel to look all that great (unless it’s the Overlook). It is not clear that it is even still actually operating as a motel.
Here’s the Siesta from yesteryear, via a postcard offered for sale on E-bay (not too busy even then):
I would be remiss if I did not show an image of the Dairy Duchess of New Concord (population 2,491, salute!) , an example of one of my favorite topics, the ice cream shack.
I don’t even know what the name of this old motel used to be. Its buildings, including the one below, have long since been repurposed. This one became a sort of garden store, selling mostly patio furniture and plants and such.
More or less across the street was another repurposed motel, only with this repurposement, the land was clearly more valuable than the building. The current owners essentially use it as an equipment parking lot.
The proprietor of the motel that had been repurposed as a garden store told me about another repurposed old motel just down the road, which he said had been converted into housing for residents with some sort of mental disability or mental illness (his politically incorrect language did not specify and I did not inquire). That would seem to be this building.
Eventually, U.S. 40 took me to Cambridge, Ohio (population 11,129, salute!), which is probably about 35 miles east of the West Virginia border. Most people see it from the perspective of I-70, but it looks a bit different coming in through the backdoor. Instead of the major hotel chains that line the freeway exits, you get establishments like the below inn. Generically labeled “motel,” I was able to determine, with the help of some Internet research, that it is actually the “Frisbee Motel & Apartments.” The few on-line reviews seemed to agree on the copious amount of cockroaches. Decades ago, it looked rather more cheery.
As the sign suggests, you are seeing a bit of “historical downtown Cambridge.” Another thing historical about Cambridge is its population, which peaked in 1930 (probably exciting the owner of the Frisbee Motel) and has been declining ever since. per capita income for the town is less than $15,000 and over 1/5 of the population is under the poverty line.
Cambridge has at least one more ancient U.S. 40 motel: Long’s Motel, shown below with its neon sign. Here’s an old postcard for the motel.